NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Opening statements were delivered Wednesday in the third murder trial of Cara Rinala. Rintala is accused of strangling her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, in the basement of the couple’s Granby home back in 2010.
Mistrials had been declared in Rintala’s two previous trials, after juries could not reach a unanimous verdict in the case. Her attorney tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that putting her on trial a third time would violate her constitutional right not to be subject to double jeopardy; but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected that argument, saying that there was enough evidence in the second trial that a conviction would have been possible.
Now, 12 new jurors and four alternates have the serious responsibility of determining Cara Rintala’s fate.
Before statements could begin Wednesday morning, Judge Mary-Lou Rup gave extensive instructions to the jury, explaining to them that it is up to them to determine Rintala’s guilt, and if guilty, it is their responsibility to determine whether it is murder in the first or second degree.
The prosecution had previously requested that the judge allow the jury to consider manslaughter, though that was not mentioned Wednesday. It is possible that Rup will not decide on whether to allow the jury to consider manslaughter until after all evidence has been presented.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl began opening statements, saying that the Rintalas’ relationship featured a long history of arguments and violence. Suhl said that the couple had a history of filing for restraining orders, and Annamarie had requested custody of their daughter.
She said it was at Cara Rintala’s own two hands that Annamarie met a violent death.
“Her last precious breaths taken on this Earth were taken with the defendant’s hands around her neck, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, and squeezing more until every last breath of her was gone,” Suhl said.
Suhl said that after Annamarie’s killing, Cara Rintala attempted to stage a breaking and entering by using a shovel and hacking the door to the basement where the victim’s body was found. Suhl said Rintala began “a lengthy scheme to misdirect the investigation,” and that she had attempted to clean up blood from the crime scene.
In his opening statement, defense attorney David Hoose said that the easiest part of the case for the Commonwealth is to narrate the story, but things become more difficult when they have to provide proof.
“It’s quite different when the case actually begins and they have to put up proof to support all of the things Ms. Suhl said,” Hoose said.
He said that prosecutors have only been focusing on nine months of turmoil in the Rintalas’ relationship, and not the entirety of their nine years together.
Judge Rup reminded the jury that opening statements cannot be used as evidence: they are outlines of what the prosecution and defense expect evidence will and will not show in this case.
Not a word was mentioned about this being Rintala’s third murder trial. THe defense, prosecutors, judge and jury must all treat this as a new case.